Monthly Archives: March 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?

Have you ever wanted to be someone else?

I typically like where I am and would rather be me than anybody else.

But there are occasions when I fervently wish I could trade lives with someone who seems to have it all together.

Like last fall, when Jack went rogue at the zoo and we had to flee in a dramatic fashion with plenty of screaming and flailing. I drove us home that day, crying alongside Jack and suddenly wishing I were Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.

In my illogical state, I imaged that The Pioneer Woman doesn’t deal with crazy meltdowns at an overcrowded zoo. She is too busy organizing her well-stocked pantry, and helping wrangle cows, and writing charming self-deprecating quips on her blog.

And I wanted to trade places with her.

Not now, of course. Just in that awful moment.

Sometimes we wouldn’t mind having a different life. Or even a different name.

On the way to swimming lesson last week, Charlie asked me his last name, which he totally already knows. I reminded him of it anyway.

“No,” he said. “I’m Charlie Gamehunter.”

While I laughed, he kept thinking. “Actually,” he decided, “I’m Charlie CallofDuty.”

At this point we were both cackling, and he knew he was on a roll.

“I’m Charlie ModernWarfare,” proclaimed my gentle six-year-old with a triumphant smile.

He christened himself with titles of Xbox games.

In the same tradition, could call myself Megan BloggyBloggerton.

Or Megan SnarkyPants.

Or Megan BookAddict.

Or I can just stick with reality.

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Divergent: My Unsolicited Review

mr-pamukA few points I’m mulling since seeing the movie Divergent, with Dutch on his birthday (spoiler alert):

1. The male lead, called Four in the film, is Poor Mr. Pamuk of Downtown Abbey fame (from season one—just ask Lady Mary about him, mmm hmm). Mr. Pamuk is baa-ack and looking finer than ever. Theo James is his name and he is more tan, bad A, and likeable as Four than he was as the Turkish playboy Mr. Pamuk. Do you agree?

2. I am growing weary of dystopian worlds in books and movies, and yet I still consume them. *Sigh*.

3. Weirdly, I liked this new take on the wildly popular genre. On a related note, I will definitely be seeing The Giver when the movie comes out later this year. Lois Lowry, people. She did dystopian brilliance before it was cool. Also Meryl is in it. And Jeff Bridges. So yes, I’m going.

4. I am old. When everyone in the movies is roughly the same age as the girls you recently taught as a young women leader at church, you realize this. Also, when you are roughly the same age as Kate Winslet, who plays the evil “older woman” sticking her fingers in everyone’s business, your agedness is confirmed to you.

5. Back to the Kate Winslet character. As she explained her wicked plan to control everyone so that there would be no choice and no individuality, and everything would be perfect, I whispered to Dutch, “She’s Satan.” Not a judgement call on my part, simply a war-in-heaven reference any Mormon primary-aged child could explain.

6. People in movies have perfect hair. Shailene Woodley is running and jumping and fighting and getting the crap kicked out of her, and through it all, her hair looks luscious and round-brushed and voluminous.

7. I couldn’t decide which faction I would want to join if I were Beatrice Prior. It’s like you have to choose between hippies, lawyers, brainiacs, parkour aficionados, or social workers. Of course, the protagonist will follow the parkour faction, because it makes for a much cooler movie, (in the Bourne tradition) no?

Also, Key lime pie makes a perfect spring birthday treat. It’s nice to celebrate the hubs.

Rainbows and Butterflies

You know what happens when things start to improve in my family’s life? I have absolutely nothing to say.

Ok, that’s not true. I always have something to say.

But when things start going better around here, my well of interesting writing topics dries up.

What am I supposed to talk about when no one is throwing his shoes or the iPad over the back fence? What do I say when there are no Code Browns? When the biggest bedtime issue is Charlie having a meltdown over not being allowed to download an age 17+ war game, what do I discuss?

The past year has featured nine months of one boy’s relentless behavior issues, compounded by a second boy receiving his own set of cognitive and behavioral diagnoses.

It’s been a year when I mostly felt like this:

20140318-230217.jpg

While much of the time I haven’t wanted to write so much as I’ve wanted to scream, rend my clothing, and throw things at the blinking cursor on my tablet screen, I’ve definitely had a deep pool of writing ideas from which to draw. As long as one doesn’t mind writing about strange/embarrassing/infuriating/weirdly funny things, which I apparently don’t.

We have spent six months tinkering with Jack’s medications to reign in the aggression that took over our lives. I’ve tangoed with the psychiatrist in this back and forth dance routine of Figuring Out the Meds.

Knock on wood, (*me, tapping my fist against my skull*) we seem to have found the sweet spot, with the right meds and the right dosing and some seriously improved behavior. Don’t speak of this in more than a whisper, though. I don’t want the universe to think we’re getting cocky.

Since last summer, we have also shepherded a second of our children through the arduous process of autism diagnosis. This time, instead of a weird, rare syndrome and the lowest of the low-functioning, we have severe anxiety and the highest of the high-functioning on the spectrum, sometimes referred to as PDD-NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, or Just What You Always Wanted to Hear About Your Kid).

Consider this diagram:

20140321-115026.jpg

It’s a nice visual.

So, about the boys: tonight they were a handful. But compared to their behavioral track record of late, they were peaches and cream.

I may have to start writing about rainbows and butterflies. Maybe ponies.>

Charles in Charge

Why is Charlie grumpy?

Because he is six instead of ten. Because there is no letter K anywhere in his name, and K is his favorite letter. Because he doesn’t want brown hair. He wants blue hair.

Why is Charlie scowling?

Because his birthday is in March, but he wants it to be in August. Because Halloween isn’t happening again until October, and Christmas and Valentine’s Day only come once a year. Lame!

Why is Charlie moaning under a blanket on the couch?

Because he wants to go back to preschool; he’s tired of kindergarten. Because he has only one long-sleeved superman t-shirt, and it’s dirty. Also because mom won’t let him play Xbox all day long and into the night.

Why is Charlie smiling?

Because he has a new bed in his big brother’s room downstairs, which is way cooler than sleeping alone, upstairs, by mom and dad’s room.

Why is Charlie jumping?

Brownies for breakfast, duh.

Why is Charlie excited?

Because swimming lessons!

Why is Charlie shouting for joy?

Because his backpack is sagging with frozen GoGurts to share with his class.

Who is he?

Charles Peter. Chachi. The Chach. Chachismo. Sir Charles. Charlie Pickles.

Why are our days sunny?

Because Charlie.

Yoga: Breathe Deeply and Try Not to Tip Over

yogaYou know the saying that some things are harder than they look?

The adage is true in my experience, especially regarding:

A) Baking bread (I’ve successfully baked lumps, but not bread).
B) Parenting (Heck to the yeah).
C) Replicating hair styles I see in pictures or on other people (They skipped me in heaven when they handed out the “impressive hair styling” gene. Also the “fancy party-planning” gene, but whatever).

Some things really do just seem simple and effortless from the outside when they are, in fact, not.

I can now add yoga to my list.

I recently tried it for the first time. I realize that I am joining the yoga party about thirty years behind everyone else in the universe. If I were “with it” I would’ve been doing yoga in 1983 in Mrs. Wheelwright’s first grade class, possibly while wearing leg warmers and a belted leotard. But I wasn’t. I was way more interested in hopscotch with my peeps Mandi Campbell and Kristy May back then. And in stirrup pants, not leotards.

Anyway, yoga. It looks really peaceful with all that quiet, introspective stretching of the body. It actually is really peaceful. With a side of brutal.

It is brutally challenging for someone with weak sauce core strength and no prior experience in planking.

I spent the entire first class trying not to tip over.

While my neighbors were wowing me with their balance, strength, and flexibility, I was like, “I’m just going to quietly resume child’s pose and try not to vomit after all that planking.”

I may or may not have looked like a caricature of someone practicing yoga as I attempted the various poses. I felt a little like Hank Hill in the “King of the Hill” episode where he throws out his back (doing something propane-related, I think) and begrudgingly attends yoga at his doctor’s recommendation. Hank goes, but he refuses to buy a yoga mat, instead picking up a welcome mat at the hardware store.

I may have looked just as out of place, but something about awkwardly attempting yoga at the butt-crack of dawn has shaken loose and chased away a dark, cobwebby something that’s been squatting under my ribs.

Maybe it’s the visualization. Maybe it’s the feeling of centeredness. Maybe it’s the planking.

About a Blog

blogIt would make sense for me to write that my decision to have a fourth child was this crossroads moment in my life.

It wasn’t though.

We had our youngest not because we wanted to, but because we knew that we needed to. It wasn’t a decision that we joyfully sang out to the world. It was something we begrudgingly accepted, the way my sixth-grader faces homework.

We weren’t giddy with anticipation. We knew that our complex life was going to get harder; the fourth boy followed our two children on the autism spectrum.

The pregnancy felled me. Henry scowled by my bed and said, “You’re always tired.” I became an automaton, plodding through a brown fog.

Six weeks too early, my water broke and Truman arrived. He couldn’t breathe and went by ambulance transport to a bigger hospital with a better NICU. He stayed for a month while he grew and learned to eat without gavage feeds.

Two of his older brothers went off the rails at the changing family dynamic.

While my littlest’s birth amplified our vortex of difficulty, my watershed moment came two months later, at bedtime, in the basement, next to Charlie’s bunk bed.

I tapped at my iPad, writing a journal entry about the havoc unwittingly wrought by our baby’s birth. As I wrote, I realized I wasn’t telling myself the story of our family. I was telling it to an audience of people who knew us, but who didn’t really know.

After years of balking at the prospect of blogging, I did a fast, sloppy one-eighty and googled ‘how to start a blog.’

And so on that black January night, beside my sleep-defiant son’s bed, I stopped explaining my life to myself, and started explaining it to everyone else.

I wrote about Code Browns. I wrote about destruction of property by children seeking sensory input. I wrote about Jack running away from school, and the school not realizing it until the woman whose kitchen he burst into called the principal.

I wrote about being housebound all winter with a preemie. I wrote about my deep-seated hatred for Pinterest. I wrote about the time Jack told his brother to shut up, and we laughed and cheered at hearing him speak.

I wrote about all the bizarre things that are everyday happenings in my funny little family.

I pecked at my keyboard, and released something winged from inside my chest.

There is real freedom in telling the truth.

Listing Things

birthday-cupcakeThings Jack put in the boiling pot of potatoes as I was trying to make dinner:
1. A drapery hook.
2. His chewed-up gum.
3. One of Charlie’s homework pages that came apart into a hundred pieces when I tried to fish it out.

Thing I almost missed:
1. Middle School registration for eldest boy, because I was at my other kid’s psychiatrist appointment discussing anti-psychotic meds for aggression instead of being at the assembly where they tell you about the registration date.

Things I look foolish doing, but really find uplifting:
1. Yoga.
2. Singing old commercial jingles from my childhood to my unimpressed twelve-year-old, like “Gra-ay-vy!” from a long-ago dog food ad.

Things Charlie wants for his birthday:
1. To “put dogs in our house.”
2. Toy guns.
3. A big “motorcyler.”
4. Lucky Charms cereal.
5. White cake.
6. Party hats.
7. Candles for blowing out.

Things I want for my birthday:
1. A massage.
2. Peaceful children.
3. A cupcake.

Things I stress-eat:
1. Dark chocolate coconut almonds.
2. Mint chocolate chip ice cream.
3. Cinnamon bears.
4. Frosted Flakes.
5. Doughnuts.

Things Truman shoots through his basketball hoop:
1. Mini basketballs.
2. Mini beach balls.
3. Mini soccer balls.
4. Footballs.
5. Golf balls.
6. Jacky’s underpants.

Things that scare me:
1. Summer “vacation.”
2. Horror movies.
3. Heights.

Things that scare Truman:
1. Vacuums.
2. Missing out on car rides.

Things that Jack loves:
1. Vacuums.
2. Mixers.
3. Blenders.
4. Power drills.
5. Hairdryers.
6. Reese’s peanut butter cups.

Life is a Highway….or a Rocky Dirt Road in the Remote Desert

desertI had a dream a few nights ago that I was driving off-road in a remote desert. In my minivan.

I was alone in the car with my boys atop a giant plateau. The road, which was really only a track, arced to the left and began to descend the plateau on the spine of a mountain.

On either side of the rocky, narrow spine were precipitous slopes. A wrong turn would send us crashing hundreds of feet down the steep incline.

I’ve had driving dreams before, and they are almost always stressful. I am alone with the boys (no Dutch around to lend to hand); we are in a desolate wilderness area. Steep cliffs. Thick woods. Rocky ledges. Huge lakes. Often, night is falling.

Driving in my non-dream life is actually rather nice. It’s one time when everybody is strapped in and generally happy that we are en route to someplace different.

Unless Jack has a fit and starts throwing feet. He did this recently and I had to move him to the front passenger seat to protect his brothers from his attacks. When we were in the intersection by the Lehi Roller Mills, he started kicking me and pushed the gearshift into neutral.

Dude. Stop kicking my car. And the people in it.

Driving becomes stress-driving when Jack goes on the warpath.

Sleeping becomes stress-dreaming when I dream of wild off-road driving situations with a carload of kids.

It’s a manifestation of my subconscious, telling me I have a good deal of anxiety about navigating the wilderness of special-needs parenting.

And it’s spot-on.

Surprise Baby

I read an article this week about an Indiana woman who went to the hospital with severe abdominal pain and left a few hours later with a newborn baby.

Mrs, Batchelor (the article never gave her first name) didn’t know she was pregnant. This mother of two thought she had gall stones when really she had a full-term baby in her womb.

I’ve heard these stories before about women who didn’t know they were pregnant suddenly giving birth to everyone’s surprise, including their own.

I’ve always thought these people were daft.

Having been pregnant several times myself, I do not know how they could not wonder sometime during the FORTY week experience, why they felt so nauseous, so tired, and so uncomfortable. More importantly, did they never wonder just exactly what was kicking the inside walls of their uterus? What did they attribute all that moving around inside to?

My firstborn son has always been a mover, including before he was born. There were times when I swore he was trying to pummel his way out of my belly, Alien-style with rapid-fire punches. If I hadn’t known I was pregnant when this was going down, I think the boxing in my womb would have tipped me off.

The best part of the news story: the Indiana woman said of the months before her surprise delivery, “I had weight gain but it was my normal winter-time weight gain.”

This sort of made me want to pat this lady on the back and congratulate her for not getting too bent out of shape about a few extra winter pounds. While everybody else is setting New Years’ Resolutions about healthy eating and weight loss, Mrs. Batchelor of Indiana is like, “Yeah, it’s winter. I’m eating desserts and getting through it.”

I kind of like that attitude. Even if I still think she should have connected the dots sooner than she did.

Winter is fading. This is the good news.

We do whatever it takes to get through it. Some people make it through with a surprise baby.

How Are You Doing?

I’ve found that when people ask me how we are doing, I have this panicky moment when I don’t know how to answer.

I mean, they just want a quick, pleasant answer right? That’s what the question is about. It’s a social grace, not necessarily an invitation for a lengthy dissertation about how it’s really going.

Do I lie and say we’re fine? I don’t really want to turn a simple question into an unwelcome speech on the crazy shiz that’s actually going down around here.

Generally, I find myself tilting my head and doing kind of a half-cringe, half-smile while murmuring “yeeeaaahh.” It’s the stupidest thing.

I just don’t know what’s polite to say about us anymore.

I need to come up with some sort of stock response that isn’t technically a lie, but does better than smiling vapidly or launching a TED talk deconstructing my life.

Brevity is key. And ambiguity.

“We’re hanging in there.” (Boring)

“Just as jolly as we ever were!!!” (Lying)

“Let’s talk about you, not me.” (Distracting)

“We are on a slippery backward slope.” (Truth-telling)

“Oh, you know….*trails off and gazes into the distance*.” (Revealing)

Maybe I’ll just stick with a shrug and leave it at that.